Two top-ranked teams and four of the best from metro Detroit highlight tonight's Prep Zone football games streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com.
This is the final week of home field advantage for any opponent. Next week’s Semifinals and 8-player Final all will be played at neutral sites. The winners of two of tonight’s Prep Zone games will meet in a Division 1 Semifinal on Nov. 19.
Here’s a preview of all four Prep Zone games. All kick off at 7 p.m., and all also will be archived for on-demand viewing at MHSAA.tv. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
DIVISION 1: Walled Lake Central (8-3) at Utica Eisenhower (10-1)
Utica Eisenhower entered the postseason ranked No. 3 and is playing in its second straight Regional Final, with its best offensive output since finishing MHSAA runner-up in 2003. That 30-points-per-game effort is led by a pair of juniors – quarterback Joe Zerafa has thrown for 1,301 yards and 12 touchdowns, and junior running back Shane King has rushed for 687 yards and 12 scores. But the Eagles’ strength might be on defense. They haven’t given up a point since the first weekend of October, and have five shutouts total this season with senior linebacker Ray Shepler just two tackles from 100. Unranked Walled Lake Central, meanwhile, might be one of the surprises of this round after knocking out reigning state champion Lake Orion and then No. 8 Clarkston to open the playoffs. But remember, the Vikings did make the Division 2 Semifinals last season. And they are led again by senior quarterback Zac Leimbach, a master running the team’s option offense. He’s rushed for 1,610 yards and 21 touchdowns and thrown for 931 yards and six more scores.
DIVISION 1: Detroit Cass Tech (8-3) at Warren DeLaSalle (9-2), at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore
Considering five Cass Tech defensive players have committed to sign with Division I college programs in February – including hard-hitting linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone (Michigan) – it’s not surprising that the Technicians haven’t given up more than 18 points in a game since opening night, or more than seven in a game since mid-October. DeLaSalle’s records aren’t always flawless like others going into the playoffs, thanks in part to a tough Catholic League schedule. But the Pilots are playing in their fourth-straight Regional final and were ranked No. 5 in the final Division 2 regular-season poll before moving into Division 1 for the postseason. Those losses came to still-alive Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary, so guys like senior quarterback Shane Morris (1,658 yards, 19 TDs passing) and senior running back/safety Mike Abiragi (the team's leading rusher and tackler) have seen their share of star-studded opponents.
Click to read more from Mlive.com.
DIVISION 5: Dowagiac (10-1) at Lansing Catholic (11-0), at Holt Junior High
Lansing Catholic senior quarterback Cooper Rush continues to ascend MHSAA records lists in just about every passing category. His 2,792 yards this fall are good for 17th for one season, and his 33 touchdown passes are tied for 16th. Senior receiver Matt Macksood has caught 69 of those tosses for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns, and run for 750 yards and 10 more scores. Both have done that damage in 10 games, with the top-ranked Cougars’ 11th win a forfeit. Dowagiac’s defense could be up to the challenge though – the No. 9 Chieftains haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game this season. They’ve doubled their win total from 2010 and hit double-digit victories for the first time since 1996. Although leading tackler D.J. Hunt has missed all but the beginning of the playoff run with an injury, defensive ends Dontrell Tucker and Carl Grant combined for five sacks against Hopkins last week. They’ll be counted on to keep the rush on Rush.
DIVISION 7: Harbor Beach (11-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (10-0)
Top-ranked Nouvel is off to its strongest effort since winning back-to-back MHSAA titles in 2006-07. The Panthers are averaging 48 points per game and scored fewer than 40 only twice, keyed by a pair of seniors – running back Bennett Lewis has rushed for 1,463 yards and 22 touchdowns, and quarterback Joe Buchalski has thrown for 1,000 yards and 18 scores. Harbor Beach, tied for the No. 7 spot, comes in with much less fanfare. But the Pirates have been here before, winning 12 games in 2007 and 10 in 2003. Junior Sloan Klaski will be a focal point – he leads the team with 146 tackles, and also 1,011 yards and 19 touchdowns running the ball. As a team, Harbor Beach averages 262 yards on the ground and could ride that in an attempt to keep Nouvel's offense off the field. The Pirates rise at crunch time: four of their last seven wins were by 12 points or fewer.
(Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)
DETROIT – Isaiah Marshall took a second Sunday night to think about the interception he’d just thrown that led to Belleville taking a late lead in the Division 1 Football Final.
But just a second.
When Marshall and his Southfield Arts & Technology teammates took the field down four points with 4 minutes, 47 seconds remaining at Ford Field, the interception wasn’t on his mind. Neither was the raucous Belleville crowd that had awoken on the home side of the stadium.
He wasn’t thinking about stopping a three-peat or snapping a 38-game Belleville win streak. He wasn’t thinking about the talk he’d heard during the week leading up to the game, that his team was on its way to getting blown out like so many of those previous 38 opponents.
All Marshall was focused on was doing his job.
“As soon as I threw the pick, I knew what I had to do differently,” Marshall said. “I just wasn’t thinking about that last play. As soon as I threw the pick, I just thought about it on the bench, then as soon as I came out, it wasn’t on my mind at all. I just knew I had to go down the field and score.”
Like he had all night, Marshall came through when the Warriors needed him most, leading his team on a 69-yard scoring drive, finishing the final 11 with his legs for the go-ahead score in Southfield A&T’s 36-32 victory against Belleville.
His defense finished the rest, as Dorian Freeman intercepted a pass during the final seconds, sealing the first Finals title for Southfield.
“It’s special,” A&T coach Aaron Marshall said. “It’s special for the community. It’s a long time coming. All week I’ve been getting calls from guys I’ve never met just congratulating the boys on making it. We had never even made it to the championship game, let alone won one. It’s real big for the community. I’m really proud.”
To do it, the Warriors needed to overcome the team that has dominated Division 1 for the past three seasons in Belleville (13-1). The Tigers had won the past two Division 1 Finals, and hadn’t dropped a game since Sept. 10, 2021.
They entered Sunday having outscored opponents this fall by an average of 49-7. They also featured the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2025 in quarterback Bryce Underwood.
But Sunday, none of that mattered to Marshall and the Warriors (13-1). Well, except maybe the last part.
“Just a little bit,” Marshall said when asked if he was out to prove he was the state’s top quarterback. “I do think I’m the best player in the state. Me proving that tonight, and showing what I can do on the big stage shows that, I think.”
He finished the night completing 20 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions. He also rushed for 134 yards and the go-ahead score, as well as the two-point conversion that put his team up four.
“He came out there and played like I thought he was going to play,” said Belleville star linebacker and running back Jeremiah Beasley, who has committed to Michigan. “He’s a real tough player. Since we were little, he’s always been tough. He came out there and played with all his heart, and they came out on top.”
Underwood certainly had his moments, finishing 11 for 24 for 164 yards and a touchdown to go along with one interception. He also had five rushes for 39 yards.
And A&T was certainly cognizant of what Underwood could do, especially when he got the ball back with 47 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead. But by playing coverage, they didn’t allow the Tigers to push the ball down the field, and eventually pressure from senior defensive tackle Reggie Gardner forced the throw that Freeman intercepted to clinch the game.
“My coaches just told me to spy the quarterback, and whatever he did, I would go,” Freeman said. “Then it was just right in my zone.”
A&T led for most of the game, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns from Mathias Davis during the first half, the second score giving them a 12-7 lead.
After a 31-yard field goal from Belleville’s Brayden Lane made the score 12-10, Marshall engineered an 80-yard drive over the final three minutes of the second quarter to give his team a 10-point lead at the half. He accounted for 79 of the 80 yards with either his legs or his arm, finishing it off with a 13-yard TD pass to Tashi Braceful with 13 seconds remaining in the half. Braceful finished the night with 10 catches for 152 yards.
The Warriors nearly added to that halftime lead, as well, recovering a squib kick at the Belleville 43. Marshall hit Tyjuan Esper for a 38-yard gain on the next play, but he was tackled as the first-half clock expired.
Early in the third quarter, Marshall and the Warriors did stretch their lead when he threw a 19-yard TD pass to Xavi Bowman on a 4th-and-14. DaMario Quarles’ conversion run put them up 28-10 with 3:39 to play in the third quarter.
Of course, Belleville didn’t go away.
The Tigers responded immediately with a 45-yard TD pass from Underwood to Jalen Johnson. And after stopping Marshall on a 4th-and-2 run near midfield, they needed just three plays and 30 seconds to pull within three points of the lead as Beasley scored on a 15-yard run.
On the next A&T possession, Marquis Peoples put Belleville right back in business with an interception that he returned to the 35-yard line. Beasley again cashed in three plays later, with a 22-yard TD run that gave Belleville a 33-27 lead with 4:47 remaining.
Beasley finished the night with 106 yards and the two touchdowns on the ground.
“He’s a senior ball player; he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Belleville coach Calvin Norman said of Beasley. “He came through in the clutch. When he ran the ball, he did his thing. I have nothing but love for the young man.”
Belleville cornerback Adrian Walker made one of the more remarkable plays of the weekend late in the first quarter, intercepting a Marshall pass deep in A&T territory.
Walker got both hands on the pass, deflecting it up and toward himself as he was spinning up the field. The ball went over his head and Walker reached behind his back to make the catch at the A&T 26.
Four plays later, Belleville was on the board with a 16-yard Colbey Reed touchdown run, and the Tigers led 7-6.
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T quarterback Isaiah Marshall stretches for the game-winning touchdown during Sunday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) The Warriors ended the night by raising their first championship trophy. (Below) Belleville’s Adrian Walker (2) makes a stunning behind-the-back interception. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)